The New York Jets weren't winning a whole lot of matchups while getting pummeled by the San Francisco 49ers 34-0 in front of their home crowd last week. Because of that result, most football followers are expecting a similar beatdown to be delivered by the Houston Texans.
A game plan is certainly part of the mix, but the Watertown (H.S.) Raiders wouldn't beat the Oakland Raiders if they had a game plan drawn up by Bill Walsh himself.
Plain and simple, if the New York Jets want to be the first team to unseat the Houston Texans, they'll need to win some key matchups on the field.
J.J. Watt vs. Brandon Moore
My effusive pre-draft man crush for Watt has only been curbed by the fact that he was not taken by a team that plays in the AFC East. Therefore, it's only right that I pay him homage anytime he comes into the division.
Watt has been highly disruptive in the passing game (almost as disruptive as Mark Sanchez, but more on him later). From sacks to pressures to batted passes, he's done it all. He was pretty much the singular reason the Dolphins did a tailspin in the second quarter in Week 1.
The problems Watt presents are multiple, but it really boils down to the numbers game. Whoever has him is being counted on to win that matchup one-on-one. That person could be veteran guard Brandon Moore.
If Moore is able to win that matchup, the Jets will be better equipped to pick up blitzers. If he is unable to do so, the offensive line could be exposing itself to overload blitzes—a Wade Phillips specialty just as much as a Rex Ryan specialty—from Watt's side of the defense.
The latter appears far more likely at this juncture; Moore has played well to this point, but with the elite level of play exhibited by Watt, it's unlikely anyone could stop him, much less contain him, all on their own.
Sione Pouha vs. Chris Myers, Antoine Caldwell and/or Wade Smith
It's interesting that the interior defensive linemen are at the forefront of the matchups. Pouha is typically counted on to draw, and win, double-team matchups. He has done neither effectively this season.
That has been a significant factor behind the Jets' inability to stop the run to this point, and although he was never seen as a pass-rushing nose tackle, his ability to draw multiple blockers helped free up the linebackers behind him to make plays.
Now that he is not winning those matchups, though, linebackers David Harris and Bart Scott are getting blocked before they can even have an opportunity to make a play, and runs that could be stopped for three-yard gains are going for six yards.
It all starts up front, and if Pouha can win his matchup with the Texans' interior offensive line, the Jets will have a much easier time slowing down Arian Foster and company. Maybe then, by making the Texans one-dimensional, the Jets can pull off the upset.
Mark Sanchez vs. himself...and a mean Texans pass rush
Losing should never become a habit, and for Mark Sanchez and the Jets, it hasn't—the Jets are 33-24 with Sanchez at quarterback.
But when the Jets lose, they usually lose more than once. The Jets are just 7-10 in games after a loss with Sanchez at quarterback. At a point where it feels like they are playing for their season, the Jets can't afford another deflating loss.
Coming off a string of poor performances in which Sanchez hasn't completed over 47 percent of his passes in the past three weeks, the Jets need Sanchez to bounce back quickly.
Good luck with that against a Texans defense that's among the most aggressive (39.7 percent blitzes, 13 sacks) and simultaneously most efficient (52.9 completion percentage, 6 yards per attempt, 68.2 passer rating) defenses in the NFL.
Sanchez has struggled against the blitz this year (25-of-50, 372 yards, 2 touchdowns, 3 interceptions per Pro Football Focus), and will certainly have his work cut out for him.
Running the ball won't likely be much easier for the Jets, who average 3.2 yards per carry, against a Texans defense that allows 4.3 YPA. They'll have to throw it at some point, and when they do, they'll need Sanchez to be quick, decisive and accurate with his throws. It would be nice if his offensive line gave him any semblance of protection—perhaps that would help pull him out of the slump.
Most importantly, though, Sanchez can't allow himself to be beat before he even takes the field.
Erik Frenz is the AFC East lead blogger for Bleacher Report. Be sure to follow Erik on Twitter and "like" the AFC East blog on Facebook to keep up with all the updates. Unless specified otherwise, all quotes are obtained firsthand.
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